ACRU

A Tale of Two Cities

City No. 1: Blacksburg, Virginia, April 17, 2007.

Cho Seung-Hui, a 23 year-old student at Virginia Tech, well prepared and having armed himself to the teeth, kills two classmates early in the morning, returns to his room to prepare a package of videotapes he will send to NBC, and, after a hiatus of about two hours, walks to a classroom building across campus, chains the doors shut, and shoots to death 30 students and faculty before taking his own life.

At the time of this episode, Virginia Tech rules forbade students from possessing firearms, the University having declared itself to be a “gun free zone.” A bill previously introduced in the Virginia General Assembly that would have allowed students, otherwise eligible under the law to carry handguns, to have them on school property as well had been defeated. A Virginia Tech administrator said at the time that the University wanted students to “feel safe.”

So far as is known, none of the students Cho killed or injured, and no student witness or bystander, had a firearm. In addition, consistent with the University’s gun control policy, no student or bystander was in a position to obtain one while Cho was still firing. Virginia Tech security personnel and Blacksburg police were unable to stop Cho, in part because they arrived too late.

The total killed, not counting Cho, was 32.

City No. 2: Grundy, Virginia, January 16, 2002.

Grundy, approximately 120 miles west of Blackburg on Route 460, is the home of Appalachian School of Law. On January 16, 2002, 43-year-old Peter Odighizuwa, a Nigerian student, spent part of the morning discussing his academic problems with professor Dale Rubin. At the end of that conversation, Odighizuwa walked to the offices of Dean Anthony Sutin and Professor Thomas Blackwell, where he opened fire on them with a .380 ACP semi-automatic handgun. According to the county coroner, powder burns indicated that both victims were shot at point blank range. Also killed was a student, Angela Denise Dales. Three other people were wounded.

When Odighizuwa left the building where he committed the murders, he was approached by two students with personal firearms. At the sound of gunfire, fellow students Tracy Bridges and Mikael Gross, unbeknownst to each other, ran to their vehicles to fetch their personally-owned guns. Gross, a police officer with the Grifton Police Department in his home state of North Carolina, retrieved a 9 mm pistol. Bridges pulled his .357 Magnum from beneath the driver’s seat of his Chevy Tahoe. As Bridges later told the Richmond Times Dispatch, he was prepared to shoot to kill.

Bridges and Gross approached Odighizuwa from different angles, with Bridges yelling at Odighizuwa to drop his gun. Odighizuwa did so and was subdued by several other, unarmed students.

Having encountered armed students prepared to use their guns to defend themselves and others, Odighizuwa was stopped before he brought about further bloodshed. The total killed was 3, slightly less than one-tenth the death toll at “gun free” Virginia Tech.

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Almost always when I write in this space, I try to present facts to speak in behalf of one position or another. I shall not do so here, the facts having spoken for themselves.